L’immensità: Penélope Cruz mothers a trans child in 1970s Rome

Penélope Cruz and Luana Giuliani in L'immensità

L’immensità tells a tender, heartbreaking story about a mother’s love for her children, one of them trans, in this Italian drama starring Penélope Cruz. The setting is Rome in 1970, not a time and place where gender dysphoria was understood or accepted.

L’immensità was directed by Emanuele Crialese, who revealed that he himself is a trans man when the film was released. The film is not supposed to be autobiographical, but the director certainly understood the subject matter.

Penélope Cruz in L'immensità

Penélope Cruz as Clara does a lovely job in this film, but the story spends more time with her children than with her. She’s in a failing marriage, troubled and worn down by her husband’s (Vincenzo Amato) infidelities. She doesn’t know how to deal with Adri (Luana Giuliani). She loves him unconditionally, which is probably the best thing she could do for him, even if she knew more about transness.

Luana Giuliani in L'immensità

Thirteen year old Adri wants to be Andrew. Outside his immediate family, most people perceive him as and address him as male. When he tells his mother he’s not Adri but Andrew she says he may not be Adri but he’s not Andrew either. Later he tells her, “You and Dad made me wrong.” He explains he’s from another galaxy, an alien.

His younger siblings Gino (Patrizio Francioni) and Diana (María Chiara Goretti) follow him everywhere, often getting into trouble as they explore forbidden places. Near his house there’s a grove of bamboo they aren’t to play in. He goes through it to a camp of poor people living in shacks. There he meets Sara (Penélope Nieto Conti), who becomes his first girlfriend. At a big family holiday reunion he leads all the kids – his many cousins – in a forbidden exploration of underground tunnels under their villa. It’s a frantic scene when the parents can’t find their children and the children can find the opening they went down.

Clara falls apart completely when her husband’s secretary shows up at her door pregnant. The whole family is overwhelmed by the immensity of the issues they face. The film doesn’t really have a definitive ending, but we’re left knowing that this mother’s love for her children is never going to fade. Maybe that’s enough.

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